The Hardest Habit to Kick: A Confession Commentator Chip Scanlan remembers 20 years ago, when he decided to kick a habit he liked -- a lot. He comes clean now, so to speak.

The Hardest Habit to Kick: A Confession

The Hardest Habit to Kick: A Confession

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Commentator Chip Scanlan remembers 20 years ago, when he decided to kick a habit he liked — a lot. He comes clean now, so to speak.


Get ready. It's almost time for new year's resolutions. And like every year, many of those resolutions won't last too long. Commentator Chip Scanlon made a resolution more than 20 years ago to kick one of his favorite addictions, and he's kept that promise to himself. Now he's wondering if it's time to share that resolution with his children.


On New Year's Eve 22 years ago, I smoked my last joint. I smoked my first in '68, blissfully inhaling the Woodstock generation party line: `Pot's not addictive and harmless compared to booze.' But alcohol killed my father when he was 46, so I turned my back on his drug of choice; smoking grass when I could get it. And I started getting it a lot during a lonely stint in the Peace Corps. A bowlful banished homesickness and transformed yam paste into gourmet fare. I liked everything about pot--my purple bong, my rolling papers--especially how it made me feel; witty, wise, with it. But I also used dope as a shield, girding myself for parties with a smoke-induced cocoon.

As time passed I was crashing more than flying. Pot short-circuited my motor control. It sabotaged short-term memory. It inspired creative brainstorms that never went past the idea stage. Along with the munchies, I got paranoia, irritability and an ominous clanging in my chest. The happy circles passing around joints thinned as the '70s became the '80s. I knew I should quit but was afraid. Pot was never a gateway to harder drugs; just a crutch I convinced myself I couldn't do without. My wife provided the moment of truth: `I'm not having kids with a pothead.'

I tried going cold turkey before, but the monkey always climbed back on. This time I got help. A psychologist showed me how hypnosis curbed cravings for marijuana's dubious pleasures. I rechanneled my energies into rehabbing our old house and writing fiction. I discovered that parties without paranoia were actually fun. I won't say I was never tempted, but at 35, I wanted to be a father more.

At the beach two summers ago I spied a baggy with distinctive green contents. I opened it. Like a whiff of patchouli, the scent carried me back. Briefly the urge to roll a doobie swept over me. Then, like a wave, it receded. I emptied the bag, and the wind scattered the stems and dried leaves.

Smoke-free for two decades, I still worry the monkey will show up again, not for me, but for my three teen-age daughters. I always kept this part of my past a secret from them. Not anymore.

BLOCK: Chip Scanlon directs the National Writers Workshops at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida. He's the co-author of "The Holly Wreath Man," a Christmas novel published this year.

ROBERT SIEGEL (Host): You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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